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2008-08-18

Obama, McCain Discuss Views on Christianity and Supreme Court Justices at Religious Forum

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Saturday’s event at Rev. Warren’s Saddleback Church in California marked the first time Senators Barack Obama and John McCain have agreed to attend the same forum since they secured their parties’ nomination. Warren conducted separate interviews with both candidates, asking questions about how their personal religious views would affect their presidency. We play highlights. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Presidential rivals Barack Obama and John McCain met briefly on stage Saturday night at a religious forum hosted by evangelical pastor Rick Warren. The forum at Warren’s Saddleback Church in California marked the first time Obama and McCain have agreed to both attend since they secured their parties’ nomination.

Warren conducted separate interviews with both candidates, asking questions about how their personal religious views would affect their presidency. Pastor Rick Warren asked Senator Barack Obama about what it means to trust in Christ and what Christ means to him on a daily basis.

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA: As a starting point, it means I believe in — that Jesus Christ died for my sins and that I am redeemed through Him. That is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis. I know that I don’t walk alone. And I know that if I can get myself out of the way, that I can maybe carry out in some small way what He intends.

AMY GOODMAN: Pastor Rick Warren asked Senator John McCain a similar question.

    PASTOR RICK WARREN: First, you’ve made no doubt about the fact that you are a Christian. You publicly say you’re a follower of Christ. What does that mean to you? And how does faith work out in your life on a daily basis? What does it mean to you?

    SEN. JOHN McCAIN: It means I’m saved and forgiven. And we’re talking about the world. Our faith encompasses not just the United States of America but the world.

AMY GOODMAN: The evangelical Pastor Rick Warren also asked both candidates about the Supreme Court.

    PASTOR RICK WARREN: The courts. Let me ask it this way: which existing Supreme Court justice would you not have nominated?

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA: That’s a good one. That’s a good one. I would not have nominated Clarence Thomas. I don’t think that he — I don’t think that he was a strong enough jurist or a legal thinker at the time for that elevation, setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretations of a lot of the Constitution. I would not nominate Justice Scalia, although I don’t think there’s any doubt about his intellectual brilliance, because he and I just disagree. You know, he taught at University of Chicago, as did I, in the law school.

    PASTOR RICK WARREN: How about John Roberts?

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA: You know, John Roberts, I have to say, was a tougher question, only because I find him to be a very compelling person in conversation individually. He’s clearly smart, very thoughtful. One of the most important jobs of, I believe, the Supreme Court is to guard against the encroachment of the executive branch on the other — the power of the other branches.

    PASTOR RICK WARREN: OK.

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA: And I think that he has been a little bit too willing and eager to give an administration, whether it’s mine or George Bush’s, more power than I think the Constitution originally intended.

AMY GOODMAN: Pastor Rick Warren also asked John McCain about the Supreme Court.

    PASTOR RICK WARREN: Which existing Supreme Court justices would you not have nominated?

    SEN. JOHN McCAIN: With all due respect, Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, Justice Souter and Justice Stevens.

    PASTOR RICK WARREN: Why? Tell me why.

    SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Well, I think that the president of the United States has incredible responsibility in nominating people to the United States Supreme Court — they are lifetime positions — as well as the federal bench. There will be two or maybe three vacancies. This nomination should be based on the criteria of proven record of strictly adhering to the Constitution of the United States of America, and not legislating from the bench. Some of the worst damage has been done by legislating from the bench. And by the way, Justices Alito and Roberts are two of my most recent favorites, by the way. They really are. They are very fine, and I’m proud of President Bush for nominating them.

AMY GOODMAN: And that was both John McCain and Barack Obama, both senators together, though speaking separately, to evangelical pastor Rick Warren in California on Saturday night.

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